Bronson (2008): A Surreal Trip into the Mind of a Criminal Psychopath



This movie was twisted and a lot of fun. I want to check out more by Nicolas Winding Refn after this, as he was the director and one of the writers who created this story. This is also the film that showed why Nolan chose to cast Tom Hardy as Bane. He owns it as a dangerous psychopath with a twisted mind in this.

Bronson is based off some of the events in the life of Michael Gordon Peterson, who took the name Charles Bronson after getting out of prison and doing fights. The film takes the idea that it is a separate identity that consumes him…or may be the true him that was there all along. I’ll go into more details in the assessment.

The film was produced by Rupert Preston and Danny Hansford, and Brock Norman Brock was the other writer along with the writer and director Nicolas Winding Refn who created the screenplay.

The story begins with Bronson performing before an audience and giving his backstory. We learn how he sees himself as having a normal life but began fights and robbing at an early age, and was how he met his first wife, but that his life really took off after he robbed a Post Office and was sent to prison. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Music – The music in this is amazing! At times it’s electronic, at times it’s classical and other times there is song. One thing they all have in common though is they reflect different parts of how Bronson sees himself. It captures his insanity, aggression and calm before he does something else stupid. Johnny Jewel really did a fantastic job with this music.

The Cinematography – This movie is beautifully filmed. We get him under red light in solitary and the feeling of trapped, we get his moments of calm meditation as he plans to fight and we see his insanity as he sees his life as a performance before the audience and that with them he is popular and loved and truly just a clown. In this way he is a lot like Goose in “A Clockwork Orange” though not as psychotic…

Bronson’s Performance – What I’m referring to here is his telling of events before the audience. We see his false guilt he feels when he is crying in a scene and on stage he is wearing stage make-up. This interior performance shows that Bronson was always the core of his personality and how much of a joke human relationships are to him.

A Code of Justice – One thing about Bronson that put’s him above Goose is he does have some sense of justice. He will not fight a person who doesn’t want to fight if they show themselves to be kind and he tries to kill a pedophile who confesses that they are the same. This showed a dimension to his aggression beyond just an adrenaline rush and wanting of attention. He does have a code.

Paul Daniels – This is the one character besides the Prison artist Phil Danielson who sees the potential in Bronson. Daniels is respected more but he is also much more detached, which makes him an interesting character. He is the one person we meet who doesn’t praise or threaten Bronson, which makes me think he was one of the few people this psychopath considered equals. He meets Paul in prison and after becomes a fighter for him when they are out of prison, it is Paul who proposes Peterson change his name to Bronson since it will be easier to sell. After Bronson goes back to prison though, we never see him again. Matt King is great as the cool confident character.

Phil Danielson – James Lance is good in this role. He helps Bronson find a way for him to express himself through art and it looks like he’s succeeding until he mentions them as “we” and it looks like he’s using Bronson for attention. This is what sets Bronson on edge and leads him to getting naked and paints his face and puts an apple in Phil’s mouth while music is played.

Bronson/Peterson – Tom Hardy truly owns this role and I’m glad that probably because of this he was chose to be Bane, who is one of my favorite baddies in the Batman Nolanverse. We see a guy who does care to some degree even if he does everything to separate himself from those who try to help him. He’s a broken and psychotic character who isn’t a hero, and he isn’t presented as one. It makes him an intriguing character. He also loves his form as he gets naked when he fights the guards in prison.

Okay: The Side Characters – From his wife, girlfriend, to every prison warden we meet…these characters are side characters who don’t get much development or have much influence in the end on the story. It’s almost like they are pieces of Bronson’s psyche which is why I can’t put this as a con…I do wish their motivations had been developed more. The characters listed above are the only ones whose motivations aren’t tied to Bronson fully. The rest are reactions to the things he does and don’t feel fully fleshed out for that reason.

The Cons: Presentation of Women – Most women in this that aren’t his mother are pole dancers or prostitutes and are only their to be used. This was a shame since even some of the prison guards had more agency than that. They at least got to react to Bronson in some way beyond submission.

Would I recommend this movie? If you don’t mind violence and nudity (which I didn’t, Tom Hardy is attractive) I would say go for it. It is a brilliant exploration of a character, even if the side characters are most there to put him in situations to react to or react to his situations. This is the exploration of Bronson’s psyche and showing the depths of his insanity and how he sees himself was genius. A psychopath for whom life is a stage, but still has something of a code. Definitely a favorite after today.

Final Score is 9.2 / 10


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